Friday, April 27, 2012

The Homer Multitext on Capitol Hill

Earlier this week, on April 24, one of our undergraduate researchers, Christine Roughan, Holy Cross Class of 2014 (yep, that means she’s a sophomore), presented at the Council on Undergraduate Research’s Posters on the Hill 2012 event the work that her team produced last summer. The team, which also included Thomas Arralde, HC ’13 and Stephanie Lindeborg, HC ’13, produced a digital edition of Book 1 of the Iliad in the Venetus A manuscript. (See past blog posts of their findings based on their edition here, here, and here.) The poster sessions were held in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill and were open to members of Congress, their staffs, and staff from federal funding agencies. We also had the honor of meeting with Congressman James McGovern to tell him about the team’s research and thank him for being a stalwart supporter of federal funding for academic research. Congratulations to the team for being chosen for this highly selective and prestigious event, and to Christine for representing and communicating their work so well. 

Neel Smith and Christine Roughan at CUR's Posters on the Hill with Christine's poster

Meeting with Representative James McGovern: (l-r) Neel Smith, Christine Roughan, James McGovern, Mary Ebbott

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Scribe as Editor, or What the Images Can Tell Us

An on-going research question addressed by the Homer Multitext in the past two years has been the precise relationship between the manuscript known as the Venetus B and Escorialensis Υ.I.1, or E3 (= West E). As we have noted, the layout of the two manuscripts is virtually identical, the primary difference being that in the Venetus B a second set of scholia was written in the available space approximately two centuries later.

This week I have been editing the text of book 3 of the Iliad in still another manuscript, E4 (Escorialensis Ω.I.12, = West F). In the course of that research I have found several places, all in a relatively brief span of lines, where the Venetus B and E3 differ. This alone would be an interesting finding, but having access to high resolution images of the two manuscripts has allowed me to put together a more precise understanding of these differences than a traditional apparatus alone would have. (Though as we will see, West's apparatus has been very helpful to me in my research.) In fact, the images show that in each case, the Venetus B has been corrected by the scribe, who seems to have been comparing his own text to that of another manuscript. In these places the scribe has chosen to erase the text he originally copied, and insert the new reading. The implications of this practice for our understanding of the relationship between B and E3 will be considered at the end of this post.We will also see in this example that having access to the images can correct and clarify the scholarly apparatus in modern editions in important ways.

Here are some examples that I came across this week:

At 3.102, the Venetus B (folio 43v) reads διακρινθῆτε, but B looks like it has been corrected here. (Zoom up on the image as far as possible to see the evidence of correction.) If we compare it to the corresponding spot on E4 (folio 28r) we see that E4 also reads διακρινθῆτε, but records the alternate reading διακρινθεῖτε above the line.

Detail from folio 28r in E4, showing verse 3.102

The alternate reading in E4, διακρινθεῖτε, is the reading of the text in the Venetus A, T, and significantly, E3. Let us note for now simply that 1) B and E3 have different readings; 2) E4 presents both readings; and finally, most manuscripts in fact have διακρινθῆτε (the seemingly corrected reading of B).

At 3.221,  the Venetus B (folio 46r) once again appears to have been corrected. (This is the view of West, as recorded in his apparatus, presumably based on personal inspection of the manuscript.)  The corrected text reads εἵη, but the original breathing seems to have been a smooth, so that the text would have read εἴη before correction. εἵη (with a rough breathing) is the reading of several papyri and the Venetus A. E3, however, (along with Laurentianus 32.15 and the Genenavensis) reads εἴη (with a smooth breathing).

E4, along with the ninth-century manuscript Z and also Laurentianus 32.3, record still another reading: ἵει. But if we look at the image of E4 (folio 29v), we can see that it too has been corrected:
Detail from folio 29v of E4, showing verse 3.221
West's view (again recorded in his apparatus, and presumably the result of personal inspection) is that the reading of E4 before correction was εἵη (the corrected reading of B). So here is another place where 1) there is division among the manuscripts; 2) the scribe of B has changed his original reading; and 3) E3 matches the reading that B had BEFORE correction.

At 3.301, we have perhaps the most interesting case yet. Several papyri, scholia (from West’s manuscripts M, N, P), the Venetus A, E3, and T read δαμεῖεν here. E4 on the other hand reads μιγεῖεν, which is also found in the lemma of the D scholia (such as in the 9th century manuscript Ve1 [= West Z]) and is written as variant in superscript in T. μιγεῖεν is the text of most mss (except those cited above).

The Venetus B (folio 47v) AFTER correction reads μιγεῖεν, but I think you can see if you zoom up that BEFORE correction it read δαμεῖεν:

Detail of Folio 47v of the Venetus B, showing verse 3.301

(Go to the full image to see this most clearly. It can be difficult to distinguish between bleed through on the other side and the erased text, but I believe that I see the brownish ink of the delta.) Unfortunately, the apparatus of Allen in his editio maior is incorrect here: he cites B as reading δαμεῖεν.

So here is our third case of E3 reading what B had BEFORE correction. The corrections in B are in a darker ink, but they do not appear to be in another or later hand. What seems most likely is that the scribe, after copying the main text of poem from one source, collated it against another source, sometimes correcting the text he had previously written to agree with the second source over the first. I think we can also see that this is what the scribe of E4 has done as well. In addition to the examples discussed here, I have found at least six other places within this same brief span of lines where the text is divided among manuscripts and E4 has clear evidence of having been corrected.

This examination, therefore, suggests two import conclusions. First, it does not seem that E3 is a direct copy of the Venetus B, at least not in its final, edited form. It must be either a copy of B before it was collated against another source, or, what is more likely, B and E3 (which are roughly contemporaneous) were copied from the same exemplar. B's text was collated against a second manuscript, but E3's was not. Secondly, and conceptually more important is our understanding that the scribes of these manuscripts were not simply unthinking copyists, but in fact were making sophisticated editorial choices on the basis of comparison of manuscripts. It is intriguing to see that E4 often corrects to a reading that is found in most manuscripts. Might he have had several sources to look at at once? If so, our Medieval scribes in Constantinople may well have been more like the Alexandrian editors working a millennium before them than they are traditionally given credit for.

A traditional apparatus, such as those of West and Allen, can be extremely useful for comparing the readings of many different manuscripts. But those apparatus can be difficult to understand, and often contain mistakes or omissions. (See that of Allen discussed above. West does not record that at verse 3.231, where there is division among the manuscripts, E4 has been corrected, even though the original text is still quite clear to the eye.) Having access to these images has been invaluable to me as I try to work with the text and understand the relationship between E4 and that of other manuscripts. And in this case, it has given us important evidence about the connection between our "twin" manuscripts, B and E3. It is our hope that the Homer Multitext will likewise greatly aid the process of discovery for other scholars as they undertake their own investigations of the transmission of the text.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Progress Report

Recently, the four editors and architects of the Homer Multitext project together with several students presented a panel at the Classical Association of the Middle West and South's annual meeting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The panel was entitled "Reinventing the Critical Edition: New Developments in the Homer Multitext Project." The guiding theme of our panel was our assertion that the critical edition needs to be reinvented for the digital age. Each of our presentations explored different aspects of the process of putting together a modern critical edition, from the photography and data management to transcription and editing to the linking of text and images to the publication and finally to the scholarship that can build upon such an edition. It was our hope that the panel would add up to a demonstration that for almost any literary work, but especially those that have survived through the complex and hazardous transmission of many many centuries and various changes in the technology of reading from antiquity, the digital realm offers a superior editing environment. We also hoped to show that, in the case of the Homeric poems, none of the early manuscripts with scholia has ever yet been truly published. We are planning to change that.

The panel was also an opportunity for us to talk about various developments in the project since the last time we presented at CAMWS, in 2008. I'd like to publish quick report here on our blog as well, and also say some things about what we are working on for the future.

We have now published images of five manuscripts, including the two eleventh century manuscripts of the Iliad with scholia from the Escorial Library in Spain, and the images of another, the Genavensis 44 (13th century with a unique set of scholia) will be available soon through a partnership we have made with the E-Codices project of Switzerland. Several of our manuscripts are available for browsing via a new manuscript browser , and images of all manuscripts are freely available in various sizes from our archive at the University of Houston. We have a new website and this on-going research blog. A book about the Venetus A manuscript is freely available from the project website, and a documentary about the digitization of that manuscript has been produced by the University of Kentucky's Center for Visualization and Virtual Environments. (And students at the VIS Center are the creators of a Venetus A ipad app.) We have undertaken the long work of fully publishing each manuscript by transcribing all of the various texts and paratexts within them, and linking these transcriptions to the images in exciting ways. We have also begun publishing new XML based editions of the Homeric papyri. We have received grants from the National Science Foundation and have experimented with cutting edge photography techniques. Christopher Blackwell and Neel Smith continue to refine the Canonical Text Services, which serves as the digital architecture of our project. Casey Dué and Mary Ebbott have each spent a sabbatical semester scrutinizing the Escorial manuscripts of the Iliad, our most recent additions to the project, in order to better understand what texts and commentaries they contain and how they relate to the other manuscripts that transmit the Iliad, and they regularly publish their findings on this blog. We have accomplished all of this with the invaluable help of many teams of undergraduate researchers. Over the past four years students at Brandeis University, the College of the Holy Cross, Furman University, Georgetown University, Harvard University, and the University of Houston have made transcriptions of papyri and manuscripts and editions of the texts they contain, they have mapped images to texts, they have researched and written about unique features in the manuscripts, and they have devoted countless hours to helping us better understand the historical documents that transmit the Iliad. Each summer we hold a two week seminar on Homeric poetry for undergraduates at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, DC, where we train new teams of undergraduates to begin work on the project. This year students from Trinity University and the University of Washington will join us.

What comes next? By the end of the academic year 2012-2013 we plan to publish XML transcriptions of the entire contents of the first six books of the Iliad in the Venetus A (including the scholia and prolegomena), linked to the already published images. This is part of a larger project to fully publish the entire contents of the Venetus A. Also by the end of 2012-2013 Casey Dué and Mary Ebbott plan to have completed the bulk of a co-authored book about the Escorial manuscripts of the Iliad. Christopher Blackwell and Neel Smith will continue to focus much of their energies on directing teams of undergraduates, while at the same time working with individual and institutional partners to implement the Canonical Texts Services in other places, since indeed the CTS is broadly applicable and is being used by a variety of different projects already. Neel Smith also plans to write a book—for more on which you'll have to stay tuned.

We are always interested in having new teams involved in the project, and we very much hope to digitize additional manuscripts and papyri in the coming years. Please contact Casey Dué and Mary Ebbott with any proposals for collaboration.